Monday, April 09, 2007

Franklin 12-Language Translator Gadget

Phrase books are great if you're going somewhere with one language, but who wants to carry a whole collection of them around Europe? Franklin Electronic Publishers
sent me this 12-language translator to try out and it would be a nice solution for a pan-European trip.

It has an attractive design that looks like a miniature paperback book, with all of the buttons covered when it's closed. Open it up and there's a sizable screen plus a thumb keyboard with all the letters laid out qwerty style. The display is very old-school: it looks like an electronic Rolodex I had in the early 1990s. A simple monochrome screen with plain text. I assume this keeps the battery use low though, so it won't crap out on you in the middle of a trip.

There's a sizable learning curve involved to figure out how to work it, so set aside some time on the plane trip on the way over. For the basic translation, you pick the "from" language and the "to" language and then go at it when you need a translation. The translator supplies a few suggestions and common phrases. You can enter accent marks, but the device usually figures it out for you without them. When I put in "banyo" in Spanish for example, the translator figured out that I meant baƱo.

There's a whole phrase database that you can browse through to see common expressions like you would find in a phrase book. If you want to order a "glass of white wine" in Budapest for instance, it tells you to ask for "egy pohar feherbor" (I've left out the accent marks here). Where this falls short compared to a phrase book, of course is that you have no idea how to pronounce that and will probably end up showing it to the waiter.

Other functions would come in handy if you wanted to spend the time programing it: the machine will give you the local time in different cities, it has a phone list where you can input important numbers, and there is a currency converter. A calculator and a few very rudimentary games round out the offerings.

The Franklin 12-language translator won't blow you away with its features, speed, or readability, but for $79 retail, it would be worth carrying along if you're visiting a lot of different countries in Europe. Get it at Amazon for $79.


AdventureTravel said...

Which 12 languages? Would be helpful to know.....

Tim said...

They're listed on the product description on Frankin's site, but here you go:

12 languages: Translations to and from Czech, Dutch, English, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Turkish